Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Botany 2013 conference in New Orleans

Last week was the Botany conference, an annual coming-together of plant scientists hosted by several professional societies including the Botanical Society of America, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and American Fern Society. Botany is always a great place to catch up with old friends and colleagues, establish or check in on collaborations, and immerse oneself in all things plant science for about a week.

Don Farrar, Iowa State University
Emeritus professor

This year the meeting was held in New Orleans, and it was particularly wonderful, partly because I got to see many dear friends from Madison and grad school. At last year's conference I had just left Madison a few weeks prior, but now a year has passed and I hadn't realized how much I missed all those folks until we were reunited in NOLA. In addition, there were several great symposia and colloquia this year, including two focused on polyploidy, and the usual highlights of the Fern Society/Pteridological Section activities. This year these included the usual fern field trip on the Saturday preceding the conference (to be covered in another post), the standard Pteridological Section half-day of talks and American Fern Society lunch, and also a special colloquium called Frontiers in Fern Gametophyte Research (link goes to the schedule of talks). This was organized by my friends and collaborators Eddie Watkins and Josh Der, and it was great! The talks focused on various aspects of current fern gametophyte research, including physiology and light relations, hormones, chloroplast movement, and the issues involved in outbreeding when you have underground gametophytes, a challenge faced by members of the genus Botrychium. The Botrychium talk was given by Don Farrar, who was also the honoree of the colloquium - he has long worked on Botrychium (pictured below) and gametophytes, and for just as long has been an inspiration and friend to the entire fern community.

Another exciting, though more sober, happening at the meetings was a session called "Yes, Bobby, Evolution is Real!", a not-very-subtle callout of Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal, and Louisiana's blatantly unscientific Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which mandates teaching "alternative explanations" for the origins of Earth's diversity. The session was picked up by many local news outlets and made its way to the HuffingtonPost, in an article that received over 5600 comments in less than 24 hours. Another Botany attendant and friend, Dr. Chris Martine, beautifully summarized the hubbub about the session and some of the relevant issues in evolution education in his own column at HuffPo. It's not often that Botany makes the headlines in such a big way, and I'm glad the conference contributed to this important discussion about the future of science education in America.

1 comment:

The Phytophactor said...

Yes, we did have fun with the Yes, Bobby symposium, and it demonstrates why we need to go directly at such issues.